Archive for June 8th, 2009

HSA aware of all high risk groups

| 08/06/2009 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Now that Cayman has recorded two case of the novel H1N1 flu (formerly swine flu) and is expecting more confirmed cases this week, despite the Health Services Authority’s best efforts to keep people informed of the situation there is still considerable misunderstanding in the community, especially about Tamiflu. Medical Director Dr Greg Hoeskema told CNS that the administration of Tamiflu is being done within the CDC/WHO guidelines, that officials are aware of all the high risk groups and it isn’t being withheld from anyone who needs it.

“We are aware of all the potential high risk groups and we are following the guidelines laid out by the CDC and WHO,” explained Dr Hoeksema. “Now that the virus is in the community we are considering each patient on a case by case basis and addressing their level of risk in relation to those groups in our clinical evaluations for treatment.”

Dr Hoeksema pointed out that Tamiflu is not a cure but a treatment that can help prevent complications in high risk patients. “If someone is sick enough to be in the hospital. Tamiflu can be beneficial for those patients who could develop complications. However, it has limited value in patients who are otherwise healthy and not in one of the high risk groups.” He noted that they would offer the treatment to those over 65, pregnant women and very small children, but there are dangers in administering it to patients who are not very sick.

Dr Anna Matthews, the acting director of Public Health, explained the problem of resistance with over use. “If we are to use Tamiflu on too wide an audience there is a real public health risk of mutating the virus which will then become resistant.”

She explained that there are only four varieties of Tamiflu and this particular strain of flu is already resistant to two of them. If it is given to patients that don’t need it, the danger of it developing resistance to the remaining two is very real, which would create an even greater problem should the flu return mutated for the autumn flu season.

Dr Matthews noted that, given the circumstances, the community now needs people who have symptoms to come in for testing and to then confine themselves to their homes to stop spreading the virus.

The idea of closing down schools or work places is not necessary, officials say, as the flu is no more virulent than other strains of seasonal flu for most people and, as it is not normal practice to close things down for seasonal flu, it is misguided to do so for this session. Health officials also confirmed that work colleagues of the latest case are being informed so that they can be tested.

On Friday, the new Minister for Health Mark Scotland said the HSA was handling the situation and that residents should take some responsibility to help control the spread. “This is a national health issue, and while government will do all it can, I want residents to also take responsibility – arm yourselves with facts and learn as much as possible about H1N1.  Follow the advice of public health officials: Stay at home if you are sick and follow the rules of good personal hygiene,” Scotland stated.

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Bermuda makes ‘white list’

| 08/06/2009 | 17 Comments

(CNS): While Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush and other delegates are on the road to Washington, London and Paris to try and increase the number of bi-lateral Tax Information Exchange Agreements the Cayman Islands Government has with other jurisdictions, Bermuda has now made the ‘white list’, having signed its 12th agreement. Although the OECD was supposedly considering Cayman’s unilateral mechanism, so far it does not appear to have spurred the organisation to move Cayman from the ‘grey list’ yet. But CIFSA Chair Anthony Travers has said that Cayman will have enough bi-lateral treaties in place soon to finally persuade the OECD to place Cayman on the ‘white list’.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said that it had promoted Bermuda from  its ‘grey list’ to the ‘white list’ because Bermuda has today (8 June) signed another bi-lateral treaty, this time with the Netherlands, bringing its total of agreements to twelve.

The Cayman Islands has eight bi-lateral agreements, but under the previous administration it claimed a total of twenty agreements as a result of the passage of the Tax Information Authority Law introduced in 2008, which enabled the CI Government to sign agreements that were not full bi-lateral agreements — a system unique to Cayman.

However, although the OECD said it was giving consideration to that, the jurisdiction still languishes on the ‘grey list’ while Bermuda has been immediately promoted to the ‘white list’ on completing the OECD’s minimum standard of 12 bi-lateral treaties. Travers’ the Chair of the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association’ had warned former Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts several weeks ago that the unilateral mechanism may not be sufficient to sway the OECD to move Cayman from the ‘grey list’.

Speaking about the latest movement with Bermuda today, he told CNS that CIFSA was disappointed but was never surprised at the application by the OECD of a double standard to the Cayman Islands.

“In addition to 8 bilateral treaties in the OECD form duly signed, Cayman has 12 perfectly satisfactory tax information exchange arrangements in place under our Unilateral Mechanism, which operate in precisely the same way, as a matter of domestic Cayman Islands law, as the bilateral arrangements,” he said.

“The Unilateral Mechanism is well recognized by OECD countries and specifically by the countries which are scheduled, including the UK, Germany, Japan, South Africa and Ireland . That, however, apparently is not sufficient for the OECD Secretariat, which has its own methodology and which continues to refuse to give credit to the Unilateral Mechanism when adopted by Cayman.”

He said that, given the circumstances, the rationale for the refusal to move Cayman “cannot be a technical objection and must therefore be political.”

However, the Cayman negotiating team, now headed up by George McCarthy, is following up on well advanced negotiations to complete bi-lateral treaties with another four jurisdictions.

“In addition, a full double tax treaty is scheduled to be signed with the UK next week in London. Cayman will therefore shortly have in excess of 12 bi-lateral tax information exchange treaties in addition to the 12 tax information exchange arrangements under the Unilateral Mechanism, which on any objective analysis will place it well ahead of any offshore jurisdiction in terms of functioning tax information arrangements and substantively ahead of most onshore jurisdictions,” Travers noted.

He explained that this was also in addition to the 27 proactive reporting treaties that Cayman has entered into under the European Union Savings Directive which, according to the OECD, do not exist at all. “However, no organization can defy gravity forever,” the chair said. “We have every reason, therefore, to anticipate that, by whichever standard that may or may not be applied by the OECD, Cayman must shortly be fully entitled to be placed on the ‘white list’ and that this odd interlude will shortly be consigned to history.”

The OECD said today that Bermuda has crossed the threshold for being considered to have substantially implemented the internationally agreed standard in this area.  Welcoming the new agreement, Jeffrey Owens, Director of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, said it was a significant development for Bermuda. 

“As it has signed 12 agreements, Bermuda is now shown in our progress report alongside other countries that have substantially implemented the standard,” Owens stated. “When we first issued the Progress Report, Bermuda had only three agreements but it has been able to rapidly implement the standard by signing nine agreements in two months. It is nevertheless essential that countries that reach this threshold continue to be open to negotiating agreements with other countries that approach them.”

Bermuda’s Finance Minister Paula Cox said the country would continue to build upon its long standing position of transparency and cooperation which has, through the years, differentiated Bermuda from other jurisdictions. Bermuda has concluded negotiations on three more TIEAs, with Germany, Mexico and Canada, which are expected to be signed later this year.

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Brown on the brink

| 08/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Independent): Gordon Brown was hit by another ministerial backlash today as he battled to stay in No 10. Jane Kennedy said she was not re-appointed as an environment minister because she refused to give a pledge of loyalty to Mr Brown. She said she told him in a "frank and honest" phone call this morning that "I could not offer him the support he was asking for". And she hit out at "smears" of colleagues by people associated with No 10 and said if Mr Brown stayed on to the bitter end, it would be "to the bitter end of the Labour Party". Mr Brown’s spokesman flatly denied he had asked her, or any other minister, for a loyalty pledge as another day of Whitehall drama unfolded.


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The Great Divide: Expats vs. Caymanians

| 08/06/2009 | 35 Comments

I find it highly disturbing that there is such contention between Caymanians and expats and "paper Caymanians". The more we concentrate on "us" vs. "them", the more we will find to divide us.

To bring it home, for women who go to that salon where your stylist knows exactly how you like your hair done or how you always have your toenails done, do you realize that they will be rolled over too? Which Caymanian do you see fighting for that job? How frustrated do you think you will be having to explain yourself over and over till you find another stylist or nail technician who learns just how you like your hair and nails done?

For those with helpers that you and your kids love, for those whose children are learning much better from the teachers and tutors … how can you not see that in 4, 5, 7 years from now when that teacher or that tutor gets rolled over, your child’s life, and your customer service experience will negatively be affected? How do you think the tourist feels when they come to check in and no one knows that they’ve been coming to Cayman every year for the past 15 years?

How many Caymanians do you know that are clamouring to be housekeepers and make US$4 an hour? But a clean room is essential to tourism dollars, one of two economic pillars of which we all enjoy the benefits. What happens when Jamaicans, Hondurans and Filipinos no longer feel welcomed in our country and leave for home where they make just as little money but are far more welcome? What happens when your favourite bartender leaves and returns to Canada? These things add up people.

Yes, it is quite true that if there are capable, willing, reliable and qualified Caymanians, they should get the job. But in some cases, one (or more) of these elements is missing – Caymanian business owners, you know it’s true. Our own people sometimes want to pick and choose aspects of their job and tell the boss what they will do! And you know it’s true. Yes, immigrants need to be managed–diversity in immigrants should be encouraged as a means of enriching the pot and not being overly-dependent on workers from any one nationality. It is never a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket. Any finance person will tell you that. But you don’t need a rollover policy to accomplish that.

It should be a wake-up call to Caymanians that despite the fact that Government has a rollover policy, and has both raised the cost of work permits and made it harder to justify getting a work permit, that both Government and private sector businesses alike find it more beneficial to hire expats in many cases. Wake up, Cayman. The Government has put stringent measures in place and still expats are hired. Do you think businesses wouldn’t love to have fewer expenses and more profits?Do you think businesses and Government would do that if there were capable, willing, reliable and qualified Caymanians to fill the positions?

I cannot understand for the life of me why we cannot look at the bigger picture. For crying out loud, can’t you see that we all, expats and Caymanians, have a role to play in making Cayman successful? The more successful Cayman is, the more opportunities there are for everyone, Caymanian and non-Caymanian alike. Like other Caymanians, I am tired of hearing a lot of expats speaking ill of us and our country. However, I am sick and tired of hearing Caymanians doing to same to expats. If we treat expats negatively, mimicking how some of them treat us, we are no better than how we perceive them to be.

I challenge expats to find the good in Caymanians. Don’t be so quick to believe the worst of what you hear or see. Caymanians are still a good people and you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you. And as long as you are working in Cayman, Cayman is the hand that feeds you. You are just as dependent on Cayman’s success as Caymanians are. So learn to work with us. By the same token, Caymanians, please, for love of God, stop being so hostile to expats. I wish that we would stop blaming others for where we are as individuals today. If you really want something, you can find a way to get it with integrity. To me, that is where we as Caymanians are failing. We are losing our integrity. And that saddens me. When we drive away people who help us make our country successful and who we can learn from, we do ourselves a disservice. Business will go elsewhere. When business goes elsewhere there will be fewer jobs which means there will be less jobs for all – Caymanians included.

If your Government department or business/company doesn’t have succession planning, demand it. It creates a business structure that helps people understudy key positions, learn the ropes and get experience with the idea that one day they will be in a position to take over jobs as capable, deserving, experienced and hopefully educated individuals who also happen to be, guess what, Caymanian. Remember when you accept a position with any entity, it is because they found something beneficial in hiring you and you found something beneficial in being with them. It is not just about money for the employee. So, if your department or company doesn’t have succession planning and your demands for it aren’t going anywhere, let me share this with you:

My former (Caymanian boss) once told me, sometimes the journey to the top is not always straight. And she was right. We might have to become an expat in someone else’s country to get the world experience we need to assume the job at the helm. These days you have to be competitive, you have to think strategy. Victor Frankl said, "When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." We should be flexible, resilient, determined. We should remain true to wholesome, Godly values. The way we treat some expats … it can hardly be called wholesome or Godly and for that we should be ashamed.

I am not yet 30, I am a woman, I am Caymanian. When I first started working in 2006, I was underpaid; my degrees did nothing to get me extra money. But I didn’t bash expats; I didn’t kick up a fuss and demand better pay or a better position. I learned all I could for two years at that job and then I applied for another job. The pay was better. There again, I took in as much as I could before applying for yet another job. This year, I started another job. Am I where I would like to be? No. Am I in management? No. But I am sure as heck on my way there. I take knowledge and work where I can get it. And guess what? Expats are very willing to share what they know and contribute to my development. I have to say, the pay is not at all shabby either. So you see, if one young female Caymanian can do it, others can as well.

This is hardly the time to tear eachother down. Bring down the divide and let’slearn to work together already because all this bickering between expats and Caymanians is only creating tension, dissent and an awfully hard pill to swallow. The rollover policy only reinforces that divide and an increasing sense of expat alienation. Let’s either modify the rollover policy or create something that effectively targets the true issues. Stop focusing on expats vs. Caymanians and create a business marketplace and community where we can all coexist harmoniously. I hope we can all be mature and move forward for the betterment of the Cayman Islands. Otherwise, these words will prove true: "United we stand; divided we fall."

May God bless the Cayman Islands and guide us–now and always.


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Pirate Party wins seat in EU

| 08/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): Sweden’s Pirate Party has won a seat in the European Parliament. The group – which campaigned on reformation of copyright and patent law – secured 7.1% of the Swedish vote. The result puts the Pirate Party in fifth place, behind the Social Democrats, Greens, Liberals and the Moderate Party. Rickard Falkvinge, the party leader, told the BBC the win was "gigantic" and that they were now negotiating with four different EU Parliamentary groups. "Last night, we gained political credibility," said Mr Falkvinge. "People were not taken in by the establishment and we got political trust from the citizens."


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Controversial policy renewed

| 08/06/2009 | 10 Comments

(CNS):  Despite the failure of the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility to pay up in the wake of Hurricane Paloma last year and the resulting controversy, the government has still renewed the policy, along with the fifteen other regional countries in the pool. The premium was reportedly reduced by 10% this year because of the global financial crisis. Last year when it failed to trigger over the impact of Paloma, the then PPM government said it needed to review Cayman’s continued participation.

The policy was renewed on 1 June, the start of this year’s hurricane season, with the newly reduced premium. CNS has contacted the Financial Secretary’s Office to see if the Cayman Islands has altered the arrangements it had, and whether the Sister Islands would be covered in future. Following Paloma’s strike on Cayman Brac, the CI government discovered that the payment is only triggered when the damage caused by the catastrophe, on this occasion a hurricane, has a direct impact on the areas of economic activity. Given that Paloma hit Cayman Brac, it therefore did not payout as the winds hitting George Town during Paloma were not high enough to make a claim.

The insurance pool did, however, pay out more than $6 million last year to the Turks and Caicos Islands in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, and in 2007 it paid $1 million to Dominica and St. Lucia after a magnitude-7.4 earthquake shook the Eastern Caribbean.

Participating governments are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The insurance policy is based on the sixteen Caribbean nations and territories pooling their risk through the programme, cutting the individual premiums by about 40 percent. It was established by the World Bank in 2006 after Caribbean leaders had sought World Bank after Hurricane Ivan caused widespread devastation in the region in 2004.

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Travers hits back at Financial Times

| 08/06/2009 | 19 Comments

(CNS): Making good on his promise to tackle criticisms of the Cayman Islands Financial Services sector whenever it occurs, Anthony Travers, the chair of the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association, has written to the UK’s leading financial newspaper to respond to a critical article which ran on 1 June which suggested that this jurisdiction was at the heart of a number of US investigations. Travers told the Financial Times that the article gave a misleading impression.

The article, which Travers says gives “the impression of an opaque, crime-ridden regime”, entitled US probes target British business was published on 1 June and revealed the details of a report by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which states that British-linked businesses are the prime foreign targets of US corporate bribery probes and how UK companies and executives are being caught up in Washington’s purge on international corporate corruption.

The story states that companies based in the UK, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands account for 16 of the 29 ongoing investigations in Washington and uses a large image of Cayman as its photographic support, something which Travers was directly critical of. In his response to the paper, which was published on 5 June, Travers says the presentation of the story would lead “readers to suspect that an avalanche of US-inspired investigations is about to descend on the Cayman Islands. A photo of Cayman that takes up more space than the copy lends much weight to this illusion.”

Travers writes: “Only three unfortunate cases are reported in the Cayman Islands; the fewest of all the countries noted in the article and seemingly therefore undeserving of the prominence of your picture illustration. Bearing in mind the recent strenuous attempts by the Cayman Islands to raise awareness of its long-standing transparent tax information agreements with the US and all 27 European Union member states, it is unfortunate that the Financial Times gives the impression of an opaque, crime-ridden regime. Rather than pretty pictures of the Cayman Islands, perhaps pictures of the Statue of Liberty and Big Ben would have been more fitting.”

Since taking up the reins of the jurisdiction’s financial PR Travers has utilised a number of platforms in his bid to get a positive message out to the world about he Cayman Islands while trying to dispel the more negative perceptions that had prevailed in recent years. Aside from writing to President Barack Obama and visiting Washington’s tax academics himself, Travers has been taking up a number of opportunities to engage the international press.

Last month Travers told CNS that he intends to “deal immediately with erroneous and negative comment” about Cayman’s Financial sector wherever it occurs. He explained that there was a pressing need for a proactive rebuttal mechanism that will take effect right across the internet.

Read Travers’ full letter to FT here.

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Former governors visit Cayman for eco-conference

| 08/06/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Michael Gore and Bruce Dinwiddy, two former governors with a strong interest in the environment, came back to Cayman last week to take part in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF). The two men joined visitors from across the UK’s Overseas Territories, various dignitaries and Cayman’s own delegation from the Department of the Environment to discuss a number of common conservation issues, from invasive species to environmental education.

The conference was held 30 May to 5 June at the Ritz Carlton, Cayman, where Huw Irranca-Davies, the UK’s Minister for the Natural and Marine Environment, Wildlife and Rural Affairs at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), also made time on a two-day visit to Cayman to give a presentation.

Dinwiddy, who was on his first return trip to the Cayman Islands since his tour as governor ended, said he was very pleased to be back and thought the conference had been a great success. Chair of the Wider Caribbean Working Group of UKOTCF, Dinwiddy said he had an interest in conservation and environmental issues that went back to his days as a biology student.

“There was some excellent discussion, and I believe the issues relating to climate change and bio-diversity were particularly interesting. There are strong common interests across the territories which was highlighted by the conference theme, ‘Making the right connections’. It was also good to see the minister give a presentation, which was very good and helps to enforce the commitment of the UK to the projects going on in the OTs,” he added.

Dinwiddy noted that it was good to see so many young people at the conference and said that the issue of education regarding conservation and environmental issue had also been a key discussion point.

More than one hundred people from all of the Overseas Territories including a number of stakeholders from Cayman took part in the conference.

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